It looks like wherever the Kyoto Treaty is in public opinion, Canada’s prime minister puts it well down on his list of political priorities.
And where is it in public opinion? Today, I counted 98 individual newspaper articles containing “throne speech” and “Kyoto.” Looks impressive, but it’s not. Harper’s alleged abandonment of the Kyoto Treaty—which is how yesterday’s Throne Speech acknowledgement that Canada cannot meet Kyoto targets is being generally spun—is not news. Everyone in Canada, including everyone in Quebec, knows Harper has never cared much for the Treaty.
In spite of this, Kyotophilic Quebeckers handed Harper the Kyotophobe some major encouragement—and Stéphane Dion the arch-Kyotophile some major discouragement—in last month’s by-elections. Which may mean that Kyoto is important when it comes to talking but not when it comes to acting, even when acting means casting a vote in a ballot box.
It may also mean that most people know the difference between paying lip service to the treaty and actually reducing emissions. Harper didn’t say he wouldn’t cut emissions. So as long as he makes gestures toward reducing them—as he did in winter 2007, when he pledged financial support for Hydro Quebec’s 700 megawatt Rupert River generation project—that’s good enough. (Nobody in the media or environmental lobby connected the Rupert project with climate change policies, by the way. This in itself is an interesting commentary on Kyoto as a public issue; see article.)
Dion knows this, which is why he will support the Throne Speech.